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NBA: Orlando’s Howard tops on defense

Associated Press
ORLANDO, Fla. ó It’s a question Dwight Howard will never forget.
Early this season, the Orlando Magic center was talking to Patrick Ewing and Dikembe Mutombo. The once great big men were giving Howard some tips, and Mutombo asked him a simple question.
“He said, ‘What do you want to be remembered as, the great dunker who won the slam dunk contest with a Superman outfit on, or do you want to do something better than that?”‘ Howard recalled Tuesday. “I said, ‘I want to be one of the greatest players.’ And he said it starts with defense.”
Mission accomplished.
The 23-year-old Howard became the youngest player to win the NBA’s defensive player of the year award Tuesday. Howard was only the fifth player to lead the league in blocks and rebounds in the same season, a goal he set in training camp.
“A lot of guys don’t want to go up (for blocks) because they’re afraid of getting dunked on,” Howard said. “Dikembe and Patrick told me, ‘As many times as you’re going to get dunked on you’re going to have more blocks.’ ”
Howard led the Magic to a second straight Southeast Division title and 59 wins in the regular season, one shy of tying the best record in franchise history set in the 1995-96 season. Orlando trails Philadelphia 1-0 in the first round of the playoffs. Game 2 is Wednesday, and Howard said his scratched eyes won’t affect his play for the game.
Howard received 542 points, including 105 first-place votes from a panel of 119 writers and broadcasters. Cleveland’s LeBron James was second with 148 points and Miami’s Dwyane Wade finished third with 90 points.

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